How to Buy a Car in 6 Easy Steps

Let’s be honest here, the thought of buying a car usually comes hand in hand with a long, drawn-out and painful process. Because of the media, outside people talking, and plenty of competition, much of the older advice on how to buy a car that you see around is now outdated and actually makes buying your next vehicle more painful than it really has to be. (I should know because I have been providing automotive sales training to auto dealers for 25 years and know all the secrets.)
With so many sources of information available from dealerships’ inventory postings to manufacturers’ sites, Kelly Blue Book, Edmund’s, Auto Trader, Autobytel, and more, it’s clear that information isn’t in shortage. However, information without a simple buying plan is just overload, adding wasted time and confusion. The goal when buying a car should be to know that you got a good deal getting the vehicle you want without spending countless hours doing research or in painful negotiations. These 6 easy steps will guarantee you get the car that you want without wasting any of your time.

How to Buy a Car in 6 Easy Steps:

1) Approach the dealer as a buyer. Your best offense when buying a car, contrary to popular belief, is to identify yourself as a buyer, not a shopper. Don’t be defensive; present yourself as open and easy. This will actually make the dealer easier to work with. The customer that approaches a car dealer in a defensive and pushy way tends to cause the dealer to respond the same way.

2) Price is not your greatest concern. Let the sales person know that the most important thing to you isn’t price but knowing that you find the right car. This will be music to the sales person’s ears and make them butter in your hands. Show them that you’re confident that once the vehicle is perfect, the dealership and you can come to agreeable terms. This will make the sales process quicker by reducing confrontation and later, make it easier to get your best terms.

3.) Make sure you’re on the right vehicle. The single biggest mistake a buyer can make is buying the wrong product. Putting price in front of selection is an outdated buying tactic. If the product isn’t right for you, the terms can never be good enough! The best way to determine the right vehicle for you isn’t online or on the phone but at the dealership. When you’re figuring out how to buy a car, a trick to make sure you’re on the right vehicle is to look at the vehicles just above and below what you think you want. Any interest in either of the other two vehicles means you haven’t found the right choice for you yet.

4.) Test drive the vehicle. Dealerships love you driving their products. This makes the dealership feel like they’ve done their job and provides them with more confidence in giving you their best price. In learning how to buy a car, asking time to demonstrate the vehicle will save you time later and give both parties more confidence when negotiating.

5.) Ask for a computer-generated proposal. Ask the dealership if they could please present their offer to you electronically rather than by hand. Because of technological advances, the most progressive, customer-satisfaction-driven auto dealers today utilize software technology to provide the buyer with computer-generated proposals. The proposal should include price, trade figures, purchase and lease payment, down payments, and interest rates all at one time. Ask your dealer, “Do you use EPencil or electronic proposals?” Computer-generated proposals avoid wasted time in the negotiations and unnecessary figuring by management.

6.) How to determine a fair price? Just so you know, franchised automotive dealers in the U.S. operate on about the same net margins as a grocery store: about 2% net margin (after all expenses). Most car transactions generate more money to state and local taxes than profits for the dealer. For instance, the taxes in California are 8.75 %, so if the dealer has a mark-up of 6% on a $20,000 car, they’ll have a gross profit (before any expenses) of $1,200 while the state will collect almost $1,800! Keep in mind that the State of California isn’t even in the car business, doesn’t wash the car, service it, or inventory the cars. If it weren’t for the dealerships’ service departments and pre-owned cars, the car dealer wouldn’t be able to even stay in business to sell new cars.

Can you find another dealer 50 miles away to sell for a couple hundred dollars less? Probably, but your local car dealer, with whom you will be servicing your car, is a human being, too. Remind him or her when you need something that you came in, didn’t create a problem, weren’t hard to deal with, and made the whole process painless for everyone.

Most auto dealers aren’t interested in taking advantage of you, and most are actually highly interested in making you happy. No buyer should have to visit five different locations before finding a good deal. So the next time you’re ready to roll out in something shiny and new, you’ll know how to buy a car in these 6 easy steps (and throw in the fact that you know automotive sales training expert Grant Cardone, which wouldn’t hurt). Happy buying

Grant Cardone is Automotive Sales Training Expert and New York Times bestselling author.

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